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The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars | [Paul Collins]

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars

In Long Island, a farmer found a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys playing at a pier discovered a floating human torso wrapped tightly in oilcloth. Blueberry pickers near Harlem stumbled upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. Clues to a horrifying crime were turning up all over New York, but the police were baffled: There were no witnesses, no motives, no suspects. The grisly finds that began on the afternoon of June 26, 1897, plunged detectives headlong into the era's most perplexing murder.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Paul Collins tells the story of the brutal, bloody murder of William Guldensuppe committed by his girlfriend and her lover. Narrator William Dufris gives a delightfully varied and nuanced performance. The book features the voices of a diverse cast of late-19th century New York characters, from Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst to a duck farmer in Woodside to employees of the Murray Hill bathhouse. Together, the characters tell the story of a gruesome crime that fueled a sensationalistic media juggernaut from the moment a group of young boys found a man's mutilated torso floating in the East River in New York City on a summer day in 1897. In Dufris' inventive performance, he expertly adopts the voice of the chillingly blasé murderers; then turns on a dime to describe, in a voice filled with wonder, the new forensic science that went into identifying the body. Dufris engages the listener by sounding as fascinated by the story as the author himself is.

It is vital that Dufris get the performances just right, since Collins has distinguished his book from other histories of the crime by telling the story of the investigation and trial largely through the voices of the people who were actually there. Collins carefully reconstructs their quotes into an intensely detailed narrative, and Dufris individualizes the voice of each witness, including the murder defendants themselves. Especially effective is his portrayal of one of the main defense attorneys in the story, William Howe, whom Dufris imbues with a bold, brash voice that enlivens the "Big Bill" persona that Collins describes. But Dufris is just as adept at capturing the macabre character of the women who, obsessed with the case, filled the sweltering courtroom gallery day after day to show their support for the dashing murder defendant, Martin Thorn. —Maggie Frank

Publisher's Summary

In Long Island, a farmer found a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys playing at a pier discovered a floating human torso wrapped tightly in oilcloth. Blueberry pickers near Harlem stumbled upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. Clues to a horrifying crime were turning up all over New York, but the police were baffled: There were no witnesses, no motives, no suspects.

The grisly finds that began on the afternoon of June 26, 1897, plunged detectives headlong into the era's most perplexing murder. Seized upon by battling media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the case became a publicity circus. Re-creations of the murder were staged in Times Square, armed reporters lurked in the streets of Hell's Kitchen in pursuit of suspects, and an unlikely trio - an anxious cop, a cub reporter, and an eccentric professor - all raced to solve the crime. What emerged was a sensational love triangle and an even more sensational trial: an unprecedented capital case hinging on circumstantial evidence around a victim that the police couldn't identify with certainty - and that the defense claimed wasn't even dead.

The Murder of the Century is a rollicking tale - a rich evocation of America during the Gilded Age and a colorful re-creation of the tabloid wars that have dominated media to this day.

©2011 Paul Collins (P)2011 AudioGo

What the Critics Say

“Wonderfully rich in period detail, salacious facts about the case and infectious wonder at the chutzpah and inventiveness displayed by Pulitzer’s and Hearst’s minions. Both a gripping true-crime narrative and an astonishing portrait of fin de siecle yellow journalism.” (Kirkus Reviews)

"A dismembered corpse and rival newspapers squabbling for headlines fuel Collins’s intriguing look at the birth of 'yellow journalism' in late 19th-century New York. [A]n in-depth account of the exponential growth of lurid news and the public’s (continuing) insatiable appetite for it." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 11-28-13
    Linda Lou Cave Creek, AZ USA 11-28-13 Member Since 2007

    Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton.  In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!! 

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "PRETTY, PRETTY, PRETTY GOOD!"

    I actually enjoyed this book after a spate of recent true crime books which were absolutely awful. Even veteran crime writer Ann Rule has lost her "mojo" after decades of dominating this genre. In this book you get good writing, research and narration - the must-have "triple crown" in audiobooks. Well worth the price of admission.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tango Texas 09-04-13
    Tango Texas 09-04-13 Member Since 2012

    Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Scattered Dutchman Murder"

    I am not much of a True Crime aficionado, but I picked up this book when it went on sale because this murder took place right just as the US prepared to leap into the 20th century and I am very interested in that period of history. As the country stood on the cusp of great change, there was hardly a place to better document the challenges of the age than New York City. In telling the story of this one gruesome murder, Paul Collins is occasionally plodding and repetitive, but he does do a great job of detailing this period of yellow journalism, some of the societal impact of the huge wave of immigration that was taking place, and the roots of modern forensic science (and some of the pseudo science that still reigned in that day). William Dufris is not my favorite narrator, but his Ed Murrow style works pretty well with this book. The details of the murder and suspected murderers are not that engaging (kind of made me wish I could read it the way Hearst would have presented it instead), but this is a good snapshot of turn-of-the-century life (and death).

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    laurie SARASOTA, FL, United States 06-27-13
    laurie SARASOTA, FL, United States 06-27-13 Member Since 2011

    I have edited 38 national best sellers and had a writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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    "Not very interesting"

    This book centered on solving a crime. Part of a body washed up on shore, and the police had to figure out the victim's identity and nab the perp. The competition among the NY newspapers at this time was intense, and Pulitzer and Hearst tried to out-sensationalize each other's papers.

    This sounds really interesting, right? But it wasn't. The investigation itself wasn't exciting, and the people involved were not complex or fascinating.

    The criminals in this book were German immigrants, so an important factor in the performance was the reader's ability to nail a German accent. He was way off. He improved as he went along, but it was never consistent or convincing.

    With so many good books out there, I wouldn't opt for this one.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John L. Walston north carolina 07-29-12
    John L. Walston north carolina 07-29-12 Member Since 2012

    math prof

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    "Terrific True Crime Book"
    What made the experience of listening to The Murder of the Century the most enjoyable?

    The narrator was excellent. The story was fascinating.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The feeling of the time and place the writing gave. Hearing the account of how newspapers operated at the beginning of the century was engrossing. The tabloid wars was something I knew little about. New perspective now on Citizen Kane.


    What about William Dufris’s performance did you like?

    That I did not notice him much. He did enough when he was doing dialogue to bring characters to life but not too much.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Moved...no really.


    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    April New Berlin, NY, United States 02-10-12
    April New Berlin, NY, United States 02-10-12 Member Since 2012
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    "true to the age"
    What made the experience of listening to The Murder of the Century the most enjoyable?

    the newspaper angle and how tabloids got started


    What about William Dufris’s performance did you like?

    engaging and good performance


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    long but excellent


    Any additional comments?

    iloved the deatails of police work in late 18s00

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 11-11-12
    Joe Kansas City, MO, United States 11-11-12 Member Since 2011

    I read science, biographies, histories, mysteries, adventures, thrillers, educationals, linguistics but not no way, not no how, romances.

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    "A fun short read"

    True crime is really quite a fun genre, in and of itself, but I particularly enjoy it when it adds historical context and historical significance. This was the case with the dismembered body found in New York just before the turn of the century. What followed was an investigation just as scientific method was starting to be applied to investigations and a trial that ran into incredible difficulties. More than just the investigation, arrest and trial, this is a story about the rise of "yellow journalism" and how it made several careers and created the modern journalistic style we know today. Through this tale of one-upsmanship we can see the rise of the paparazzi and the 24 hour news cycle.

    So yes, I recommend this book. The murder is sensational, the characters are interesting, the impact on modern America is recognizable. Enjoy it!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gudrun Fort Resolution, Northwest Territories, Canada 01-02-14
    Gudrun Fort Resolution, Northwest Territories, Canada 01-02-14 Member Since 2011

    I'm open to any book as long as it is true to itself.

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    "Historically interesting"

    The crime itself was interesting as was the inter-play between the press at the time. Otherwise this was overly long and would have benefitted from more research to bolster the facts presented.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 11-17-13
    Janice Sugar Land, TX, United States 11-17-13 Member Since 2010

    Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.

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    "Mountain out of a molehill murder"

    I think Paul Collins needed to figure out just what kind of book he was trying to write. It wasn’t a murder mystery because the culprits were fairly obvious and brought to trial before the book was half done. It didn’t really document the beginning of Yellow Journalism, because we were told the term had been tagged before this incident occurred, and the wars between the various newspapers were already well underway. Although we hear most about the Hearst-Pulitzer rivalry, these two potentially colorful characters remained mostly flat and in the background.

    What is left is a somewhat disorganized description of a grisly murder committed by very ordinary people for the most mundane of motives. The police are portrayed as inept, but can be forgiven to some degree because of the intrusion of headline greedy journalists who planted false evidence, invented false leads and “witnesses”, making it a miracle that the truth ever came out at all. I kept wishing for someone to step up and tell everyone to knock it off. In the end I came away irritated at the whole thing – sort of how I feel about tabloid reporting today. I guess I got what I asked for.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    brenty United States 10-16-13
    brenty United States 10-16-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Fascinating and thrilling"

    This book purports to tell not only the story of THE murder of the (19th) century, but also the beginning of the tabloid wars...and it delivers!

    If you have an interest in true crime (or simply enjoy period drama), this turn-of-the-century tale will almost certainly satisfy.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Bellevue, WA, United States 10-03-13
    Elizabeth Bellevue, WA, United States 10-03-13 Member Since 2007

    A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!

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    "So that's how it all began..."

    At times I was confused by the mounting characters and plot points, but the bigger picture of understanding the single crime that, at least in the author's eyes, launched modern day yellow journalism really was quite fascinating. What did journalists do before the internet? Carrier pigeons, telegraphs, and more were used to quickly pass info. And the media butting their noses in where they don't belong? Nothing new!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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